Police using their power to sexually abuse and rape
November 1, 2015 8:12 AM   Subscribe

 
Just a drop in the bucket though. Police are only rarely punished for any offenses, including rape.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:16 AM on November 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


Shit this blatant and widespread makes me come back to what I see with the whole system of police forces. I mean, if course we need police. We've got laws, they've got to be enforced. But what kind of psychotic manbaby, even if they frame it as doing a public service, thinks, "I'm a person who should be able to wield disproportionate force and tell others what to do." The act of becoming a cop indicates that they are the last person who should be a cop.

Of course the answer to that is some kind of draft system or national occupation assignment nightmare so, shit, I dunno. This whole mess seems hopeless to me when I'm reminded of this stuff.
posted by cmoj at 8:31 AM on November 1, 2015 [17 favorites]


Or...you know.. we could implement oversight procedures and checks that are independent, well-supported and aren't corrupted?
posted by smidgen at 8:35 AM on November 1, 2015 [49 favorites]


If any other public office were this rife with sexual assault, physical abuse, murder, corruption and theft, it would get shut down in a minute, with calls to clean house from the ground up, or to burn the whole thing down and salt the earth where it once stood. But since this is the domestic armed wing of the state, whom we're all supposed to respect and obey a priori, we get a lot of hemming and hawing about isolated incidents and patience for reform. Just abolish the police already. The whole shithouse stinks to high heaven.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 8:42 AM on November 1, 2015 [15 favorites]


I have to admit, though, that I do like the idea of electable and recallable police, voted in or out by their communities, with an independent oversight that has some teeth. Makes zero sense to me that this much power isn't something you need a democratic mandate to wield.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 8:46 AM on November 1, 2015 [10 favorites]


Oh wow who ever could have predicted
posted by poffin boffin at 8:55 AM on November 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


This is Human Traffic Stopping. The punishment for this should be immediate, public, excruciating and permanent. Instead they are deliberately dropped off the radar so they can work elsewhere in enforcement.

The dots that need to be connected are; we lavishly reward violent types the world over. The highest honors and regards are afforded those who do the most damage consistently, who persistently aid and abet theft on a grand scale and provide security for it. Rape is just a service perk.
posted by Oyéah at 9:00 AM on November 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Regularly scheduled reminder that this sort of violence very often starts at home and goes largely, if not entirely unpunished.

Oh, but why don't more women report their sexual assaults to the police?
posted by divined by radio at 9:02 AM on November 1, 2015 [32 favorites]


Another place where police cameras would help. While I'm not a fan of surveillance in general, I'm also not a fan of someone being given life and death power over me. Changing the power balance will reduce the amount of corruption.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 9:05 AM on November 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Using the power of the ballot to elect and recall police? That's not exactly worked out well for Maricopa County, Arizona, unless one is a voter who likes having a racist, authoritarian, and fractally terrible sheriff.

I think any scheme to try to improve oversight of the police and more quickly fire the ones who abuse their power (and to be less likely to hire such people in the first place) has to take into account the likelihood that a significant proportion of the electorate (hopefully a minority, but significant nonetheless) is just fine with the current state of affairs, so long as the abuses mainly fall on the heads of the other.
posted by metaquarry at 9:06 AM on November 1, 2015 [20 favorites]


"I'm a person who should be able to wield disproportionate force and tell others what to do."

I agree that some concern is warranted, because the nature of the job itself is that it will attract people with power fantasies...

But then, there are countries with police forces far less violent and corrupt than ours. We're not actually helpless to make things better without getting rid of the police or turning it into some unrealistic draft scenario. We could change things without going that far; we just don't have the political will.

The American police culture is broken, the American police system is broken, and maybe reform is a pipe dream but it's because we don't want to fix it, not because we can't.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:09 AM on November 1, 2015 [10 favorites]


So these cops...the ones that were caught...I'm sure most aren't incarcerated. Do they at least have to go around declaring their registration as a sex offender?
posted by hal_c_on at 9:14 AM on November 1, 2015


I have to admit, though, that I do like the idea of electable and recallable police, voted in or out by their communities, with an independent oversight that has some teeth. Makes zero sense to me that this much power isn't something you need a democratic mandate to wield.

You appear to be unfamiliar with large parts of the United States where this already exists and is the source of some of the worst policing in the civilized world.
posted by srboisvert at 9:24 AM on November 1, 2015 [15 favorites]


The best chance at preventing such incidents is to robustly screen applicants, said Sheriff Russell Martin in Delaware County, Ohio, who served on an IACP committee on sex misconduct. Those seeking to join Martin's agency are questioned about everything from pornography use to public sex acts. Investigators run background checks, administer polygraph exams and interview former employers and neighbors. Social media activity is reviewed for clues about what a candidate deems appropriate, or red flags such as objectification of women.

Still, screening procedures vary among departments, and even the most stringent standards only go so far.

"We're hiring from the human race," Martin said, "and once in a while, the human race is going to let us down."


Right. I have met some decent people who are police officers. But there has to be a bias problem overall, where many of those attracted to this work are inclined to violence, period. Who in the world actively wants to go around confronting dangerous situations, and exerting physical force to contain and control other people? Who's drawn to a mostly male culture that prioritizes loyalty to one's own?
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:27 AM on November 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


I mean, of course we need police. We've got laws, they've got to be enforced.

We need police? We got by for a good long while with laws and without police. Just because we've been police-ridden for the past two hundred years doesn't mean we always have to be.

I mean, this isn't entirely snark. I would propose interrogating that little sentence above, the one that goes "We've got laws, they've got to be enforced." It is true that we have laws. It is demonstrably not true that they have to be enforced. We know it's not true, because right now our institutions enforce some of our laws and not others. We have police to enforce laws against breaking windows, against violating traffic regulations, against carrying illicit substances while Black, and against violent crimes committed against the relatively privileged, and so forth, but we don't have police to enforce laws against wage theft, petty property crime committed against the non-privileged (bike theft and the like), discriminatory hiring and firing practices, violence committed by the police themselves, or usury.

I'm an unreasonable person, to be sure. But I think even reasonable people might find value in applying a methodology that starts with the observation that our institutions do not enforce all laws, that continues by cataloging what sorts of laws are and are not enforced, and then produces hypotheses about the effects of paying police to enforce one specific set of laws and not enforce others. We may thereby find that how our institutions deploy police control is in fact more harmful to human life than not having police at all.

For my part, I would be entirely on board with the one-for-one replacement of every police officer in the United States with workplace inspectors who actively investigate businesses for OSHA violations, for wage theft, and for other crimes committed by employers against employees — you know, the crimes that take much more money out of our pockets every year than street crime does, and expose us to more risk of physical harm than street crime does. Of course, because the primary function of the police is to protect free commerce rather than to protect us — because our enforcement regime is about protecting businesses, not people — those laws currently go largely unenforced.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:27 AM on November 1, 2015 [66 favorites]


You appear to be unfamiliar with large parts of the United States where this already exists and is the source of some of the worst policing in the civilized world.

No, I am familiar, thanks. It's when I see predominantly minority-populated communities being oppressed by predominantly white cops that this idea comes to mind.

But as I said in the comment just previous to that one, my preference is for just abolishing the police force. It's proven itself a toxic and dangerous element in our society like a billion times over. Enough already.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 10:09 AM on November 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


We need police? We got by for a good long while with laws and without police. Just because we've been police-ridden for the past two hundred years doesn't mean we always have to be.
I mean, define "got by." I agree with you about enforcement of workplace regulations vs. enforcement of property crime, but it's really hard for me to view the pre-police era as some sort of utopia of social justice.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:10 AM on November 1, 2015 [16 favorites]


it's hard to view the pre-whatever era as some sort of utopia of social justice, for any value of "whatever," because basically since the development of agriculture at the latest our societies have been more or less ruled by monsters. It's possible to view police as a failed experiment without idealizing pre-modern societies.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:16 AM on November 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Out of curiosity, I wonder how the numbers compare for teachers accused of sexual abuse and rape.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 10:32 AM on November 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


"In a yearlong investigation of sexual misconduct by U.S. law enforcement, The Associated Press uncovered about 1,000 officers who lost their badges in a six-year period for rape, sodomy and other sexual assault"

A year ? This should have been a single query to the national database of police misconduct. Why don't we have that database?

In the wake of Ferguson, it came out that nobody actually knows how many people nation-wide are killed (justifiably or not) by police. It's a good bet that McDonald's knows to a good degree of accuracy how many Egg McMuffins it served nation-wide last year. And yet, there's no-one collating important law enforcement statistics. The mind boggles.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:37 AM on November 1, 2015 [24 favorites]


for OSHA violations, for wage theft, and for other crimes committed by employers against employees — you know, the crimes that take much more money out of our pockets every year than street crime does, and expose us to more risk of physical harm than street crime does.

And guess why street crime is so low compared to business-perpetrated crime? Because one is enforced more than the other. They're also a lot easier to enforce—a cop can just drive around and look for traffic violations, and violent crime can leave behind plenty of evidence (DNA, CCTV video, etc). But if a worker accuses a company of wage theft, it can take an entire court case (plus appeals) just to properly classify them as an employee or an independent contractor.

I'm not saying these white-collar crimes shouldn't be enforced too. And on the margin, it might even be worth investigating fewer robberies and muggings in exchange for more OSHA violations. But if it really were an either-or choice, then give me police over inspectors any day. The people most vulnerable to employer abuse are the really poor ones or illegal immigrants, who can't just report the abuse and spend time finding a new job. Whereas more street crime would threaten anyone who isn't rich enough to have a chauffeur—or if things get bad enough, a pilot.
posted by Rangi at 10:37 AM on November 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


But if it really were an either-or choice, then give me police over inspectors any day. The people most vulnerable to employer abuse are the really poor ones or illegal immigrants, who can't just report the abuse and spend time finding a new job. Whereas more street crime would threaten anyone who isn't rich enough to have a chauffeur—or if things get bad enough, a pilot.

Well, it's not like street crime happens in a vacuum. Vast swaths of resources hoarded, legally and otherwise, creating desperate conditions for entire communities is the engine behind a lot of "street crime". Like they say, rich people don't mug you or carjack you on the street; they clean out your savings account.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 10:51 AM on November 1, 2015 [9 favorites]


The people most vulnerable to employer abuse are the really poor ones or illegal immigrants, who can't just report the abuse and spend time finding a new job.

If employees have to report abuse for it to be discovered, laws against abusing employees aren't enforced. You need surprise inspections so that the state can find criminal employers without employees having to expose themselves to criminal retaliation from those employers. In short, you need officers working a beat.

Obviously any person without papers who's been forced by exploitative employers to work under illegal conditions should be granted full citizenship (and access to public benefits, including generous unemployment benefits) immediately. There are two reasons for this: one, it's the right thing to do, and two, it will encourage employees to report crimes committed by employers.

(I must stress, though, that any system of enforcement that entirely relies on reports from the people being blackmailed by their employers into working in illegal conditions is not a system of enforcement.)
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:08 AM on November 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


but um that aside I think we can all agree that police work as currently practiced is a form of organized barbarism and that police departments should be abolished and replaced by something (anything!) with better practices and a better mission, one that's actually societally beneficial.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:25 AM on November 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


A priori, I'd expect police are simply a creation of either racial tensions or class tension, or both. We do not need police per se so long as we do not seek to repress minorities or classes.

There is however an important differences between now and when police did not exist : We now seek to modify a bunch of behavior to make society more pleasant.

Example 1 : We need automated systems to prevent dangerous behavior while operating dangerous vehicles because now everyone drives. In the past, there were more rigid class distinctions so that people wealthy enough to own horses and carriages were not penalized for killing the sort of ordinary people who usually get run over. We can do this in a privacy preserving way, but it's tricky.

Example 2 : We mostly eliminated dueling. Males kill one another all the time in primitive societies. In the past, we formalized this amongst the upper classes with dueling, gained control of it there, and greatly reduced it. It's necessary to be able to investigate murders. Crime scene investigators should not carry weapons themselves of course, but sometimes they may need protection by armed people.

Example 3 : We're now trying to largely eliminate rape and domestic violence. There is a metaphorical similarity to the reduction in male-on-male murder, but it's practically quite different. I'd expect domestic violence needs special unarmed officers trained to deal with those situations, but they may sometimes need armed guards.

In short, I'd argue for a strict dichotomy between state experts trained to deal with crime scene investigations, domestic violence, etc. and their mobile guards. These guards should be obey the orders the experts they protect, but otherwise they should have almost no shared subculture bond, no shared training, etc. Guards should not be deployed expect through some judicial warrant-like process, should not wield force beyond what normal citizen wield, except when authorized by a real judge, and their actions should all be recorded. In particular, we need a new formulation of the second amendment that says state officials may never wield fire arms except when authorized by a judge.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:56 AM on November 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


I must stress, though, that any system of enforcement that entirely relies on reports from the people being blackmailed by their employers into working in illegal conditions is not a system of enforcement.

I have to underscore this, with the addition that in my work organizing, a lot of workers might not even know they're being exploited. I'll talk to someone who is upset that they haven't gotten a summer vacation, only to find they're working without a contract, for sub-minimum wage, no overtime and so on - and they have no idea this is all illegal.

Cops, like bosses, enjoy a great deal of benefit of the doubt that enables abuse of power. Only where you might have some degree of accountability where employers are concerned (and I stress "might", as this of course varies greatly regionally), cops have far, far too much leeway to get away with even obviously horrible behavior, as evidenced in the FPP.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 12:48 PM on November 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have a Facebook friend who tracks convictions of US law enforcement officers for sex offences against children -- rape, molestation, possession of child pornography, etc.

I've been staggered at the regularity with which she posts these.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:36 PM on November 1, 2015


The creation of a public police force with the object of preventing crime was an act of great justice and compassion. It replaced private policing, which was accessible only to the privileged, and which could only seek to deter crime through the imposition of grossly punitive sentences.

Yes, there are great problems with police culture, but this has been successfully fought in the past and can be it can be done again. The solution to police breaking the law is the application of law to the police, not doing away with the law altogether. When that happens (e.g., due to strikes, civil war, and other disturbances) the people who suffer are the poor and those without powerful connections.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:50 PM on November 1, 2015 [8 favorites]




I'm going to offer a "yes, but" to Joe's comment. Modern policing is a product of capitalism, and capitalism and its institutions are better, for most people, than the socioeconomic technology that preceded them. But not good enough by a very long way. So, no, the solution is not to abolish the police, but neither is it tinkering at the edges. Police forces the world over are unacceptably and systemically corrupt, violent and racist, primarily because of the concentrations of power they serve to enforce. But at the same time, it is possible for police forces to remain a net good - as they are, for example, here in Britain (outside of London at least).

Reform is worth the effort, even without revolution, but that doesn't mean we should forget that this is the ultimate aim.
posted by howfar at 2:12 PM on November 1, 2015


In my city, we've had four arrested and one thus far convicted of domestic and/or sexual abuse charges in the past three years. That's in a department of 351, and that's just who got caught.
posted by rollbiz at 3:24 PM on November 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm a bit dubious about civilian review boards. Unless the members are anonymous, police departments can woo the members, cajole the members, take them on ride alongs which are (if not staged) slanted to show them how awful things are, and in the worst of cases, the police can directly or indirectly threaten them. Add this to the probability that review boards are probably filled with pro-police members in the first place and we have a recipe for always finding the police innocent of any wrongdoing.
posted by Death and Gravity at 3:51 PM on November 1, 2015


There is no way electing police would resolve the larger problems, Aya Hirano. If anything that public mandate would further insulate them from punishment. It's simply become "X elects cops" and "cops suppress Y vote", but that's okay because it's democratic.

We must to disentangle the state's power to commit violence all together, like I described upthread. There should be nobody walking around with the authority to either (a) bear arms beyond what a normal person may obtain or (b) commit violence based upon their own judgement, except that anyone may do so in self defense. Instead, these power should only be granted through legal proceedings similar to how we grant search warrants.*

* In fact, I'd argue that search warrant with attached "fire arms warrants" should be contingent upon the fire arms warrant being appropriate, meaning that if a judge authorizes the armed guards for investigators serving a warrant, but they discover no weapons on the premisses, then the original search warrant should become invalid and evidence obtained through it inadmissible in court. In that way, the prosecutors and courts would be forced to take public safety into account when carrying out investigations because anytime they authorized excessive force they'd lose the case.

posted by jeffburdges at 3:54 PM on November 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


If we can close and reorganize "failing" schools for scoring a bit low on tests, we can close and reorganize police departments for having a high incidence of misconduct.
posted by miyabo at 4:21 PM on November 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


There is no way electing police would resolve the larger problems, Aya Hirano.

Let me stress, again, that I believe the abolishment of the police is the only answer, period. To expand, I think electability/recallablity has too narrow and unstable a scope. As "nice" as the idea may be, it's ultimately untenable. Power and the state are one and the same, at home and abroad, and I think disentanglement of one from the other means the end of the state, and the dispersal of power. The police are one arm of a larger mechanism, and a reflection of it. That I think is what has to be dismantled.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 4:55 PM on November 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


My family has lived through occasions when the state was dismantled: I'm lucky to be here today. The people fleeing Africa and the Middle East are mostly doing so because their states have been dismantled.

I totally agree that states' organs of power are generally inadequate and incompetent and have been captured by wealthy and powerful interests, but the idea that things could be made better by dismantling them has been repeatedly shown to be false. The best outcome is civil war followed by the creation of a successor state; the alternative is a perpetual state of civil conflict.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:19 PM on November 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


cotton dress socks: But there has to be a bias problem overall, where many of those attracted to this work are inclined to violence, period. Who in the world actively wants to go around confronting dangerous situations, and exerting physical force to contain and control other people?

Well, generally the answer to this is: military people. And indeed, the bias you question is in the hiring of ex-military servicepeople. I believe more than 50% of US law enforcement officers are ex-military. It's a natural recruiting pool. So, I think that in order to tackle police culture, we need to look at the military culture which feeds it. We also need to do a much better job than the non-existent one we do now providing our serving and ex-servicepeople with non-punitive mental healthcare, and with providing job training that gives much broader options than those people face now.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:26 PM on November 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


The act of becoming a cop indicates that they are the last person who should be a cop.

Of course the answer to that is some kind of draft system ...
posted by cmoj at 11:31 AM


Seconded!

We already have national selective service registration, so we just extend it to everyone of age, and hold lottery's to see who serves a 4 year stretch..
posted by mikelieman at 5:36 PM on November 1, 2015


This horse has been beaten pretty well. But there is no service culture or accountability in policing largely by design. So in a way, it’s surprising there aren’t actually more psychopath police officers. Only so many of them in the general population I suppose. On top of that only so many willing to do actual work, make the cuts (fitness and so forth), or be in a position where they might genuinely have to risk themselves.

Georgia (the country, under Saakashvili) actually did fire all traffic police and made huge cuts in other policing areas. Results were mixed. But the change in the culture they pushed seems to have stuck well. At least to the point one doesn’t have to grease every cop in the neighborhood and official in the area like the underside of a food truck to get anything done.

If a country like Georgia can do it, the U.S. can do it. Just need the political will…which isn’t there… but y’know, the mechanisms are there. Were we to actually push legislators and get politically involved at the local level instead of engaging in the outsider folk hero messiah complex every 4 years.

But Georgia’s problem is the reverse of the one in the U.S., in Georgia before those reforms no business could be done because of the corruption. In the U.S. the corruption is the business.
So the big problem from the outset is transparency. Character being who you are in the dark, again, it’s stunning it’s not worse.
Of course, in some ways, it is worse. Because what reporters report is primarily what is public information.
How does the AP know hundreds of officers lost their licenses over sex misconduct? State records. Public records. And they note that not all states have a statewide system to decertify officers for misconduct, so the public numbers are short.
But for private security, often subcontracted by the government, there doesn’t seem to be any transparency. Out here it took citizens screaming at the media until a small (but very notable) local outfit did a story on abuses by a private security firm hired by HUD.
The University of Chicago’s police department have pretty much the same deal going on. Are they racially profiling people? Beating them?. They cover a large area (Cottage Grove to Lake Shore Drive, 37th to 65th, good chuck of the south side) with full police powers. Tough area. Maybe they’re the greatest private cops in the world. Doesn’t matter because the question itself is less relevant than the fact that you’d never know about it either way because it’s not subject to public scrutiny.

Private cops detain people, carry sidearms and used deadly force too. Zero oversight.
And we've been here before. It got so bad with the Pinkertons we passed an anti-Pinkerton act.

I’m for a fairly strong (far less than the NRA, but given Metafilter…) interpretation of the 2nd amendment for the same reasons I’m for greater police accountability. I think for citizens and police there should be parity in firearms use and I think all uses of any firearms should be transparent and open as possible. In short – no one shoots in secret.

When police powers are given to private individuals (who work for a security company) they should be treated the same as police in terms of transparency and public records.
With the (in many ways purposeful) erosion of public infrastructure, you’ve got the same false dilemma - brutality or insecurity?

South America, some places, is good for this. There’s no question security is for rich areas. Areas with a lot of resources can organize security plans, coordinate with the police, donate money to cover the cost of hiring more police. Poorer areas can’t.

I think we all need to wake up in the U.S. and realize we’re all getting into the “poorer area” category.

“Who in the world actively wants to go around confronting dangerous situations, and exerting physical force to contain and control other people?”
Scumbags like this.

We can fix the problem. Really. I think most of us just don’t know there’s resistance to fixing it. And it’s not just some nutcases or a situation where people who want to be cops are somehow inherently evil.
The only real problem is the secrecy and the ceding of our rights to private companies that tell us they can do better, cost less, etc. etc. (boy, that applies to a LOT of other fields in the U.S. too)

It just takes some vigilance and objectivity. We tend not to do that well though. Long patient attention to make change doesn’t seem built into the American landscape.

Foster accountability and create a culture that is by design and incentive responsible to citizen needs. Not hard. The way hiring is, the way police can moonlight and get paid by private contractors or get bribes, it's not going to happen.

Even if everything else is completely legitimate, it's got to be a cultural sea change. The basic conceptions of what we want police to do has to change. And clearly plenty of idiots think police should be engaged in punitive violence. And there are others that are... I don't know.
Fear of authority can be a hard thing to overcome.

Miligram type conundrums aside - you’ve got a system set up to grind meat in secret basically, with racism as a side dish, and then you get some people hired who enjoy that sort of thing, sure.

But mostly people who don’t, but either way people with enough of a stomach for it – many police tests look for psychopathology, but in hiring there’s a large number of adherents to the philosophy that someone that scores high in sensitivity won’t have the stomach for it, and it’s a point I’ve always contested, not only because sensitivity (interpersonal, anyway) has always helped me engage, and fight, better when I needed to, but someone who is insensitive, obviously, is going to be less service oriented and responsive.

And they’re more likely to hurt someone.

I forgot the study, but there was one that showed officers who were more highly educated (and often scored higher on sensitivity) were more likely to kill people. But the justification rates were much, much higher. Whereas their counterparts were less likely to have justification and more likely to engage in brutality.

Well, duh.

It’s easier to train a civilized man to barbarism than it is to train a barbarian to act civilized.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:53 PM on November 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


My family has lived through occasions when the state was dismantled: I'm lucky to be here today. The people fleeing Africa and the Middle East are mostly doing so because their states have been dismantled.

If you prefer, "hierarchical power" instead of "state". I don't think it's helpful to confuse chaos with non-hierarchy.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 5:56 PM on November 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think it's really interesting how our idea of "police" has evolved along with our idea of "crime."

A guy evicted from an apartment, a guy speeding, a guy robbing a bank, a guy selling drugs, a teenager picking fights, and a mentally disturbed guy doing weird things in public have basically nothing to do with each other. Some acts are mistakes, some are craven desires for money, and some are more or less natural human behavior. And we call them all "crime" and create a "police force" to "fight crime."

I could definitely imagine police forces getting split into many different groups -- some that do boringly literal law enforcement work (more like today's health inspectors than police), some that are entirely focused on traffic enforcement, some that are basically on-call social workers for mental illness and domestic violence. Some dedicated crowd control folks who are cross-trained as EMTs and can help out at busy events and such. Some who are really good with kids and can help deescalate teenage mischief. And a tiny percentage would remain armed, militarized police for when there really is a bank robbery going on. But those kinds of police are only very rarely necessary, and there's no need for them to be wandering around every day and causing problems by their very presence.
posted by miyabo at 8:49 PM on November 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


Some of the behavior of American police is more like the behavior of an occupying army, the brutality and rape even of children. The United States has invaded other countries for this sort of thing. I have read of roadside body cavity searches of women taking place where anyone could see what is going on being a regular occurrence in the state of Texas, Officer Slam in South Carolina, cops taking cash and valuables from travelers, child pornography, and all sorts of other stuff. To me it is really a wonder how many of the social class most affected defend this state of affairs. It's not rare at all for the police to behave badly.
I know there are good people in police work. I've met mostly good officers in my current town, but I have lived in places in the US where you don't look at a police officer.
What we are seeing isn't 100% new, and goes back to the beginnings of police in our country.
What exactly is that beginning?
Slave catchers. Union busters. Dealing with other matters such as actual crime was secondary.
The mentality has more to do with making life easy for the wealthy than to do with making life safer for everyone.
I have had few real occasions to call the police in my life. My two uncomfortable experiences one of which I consider negative, were with female officers.
I think another thing, contact with criminals has unique temptations. One of those temptations is access to drugs.
How many violent police got that way because of some combination of steroids, amphetamines and maybe PTSD?
I think since many police come in after military service, screening for PTSD is a must.
If there has been a violent incident such as a beating, rape or killing, that officer should be tested for drugs as part of the investigation.
I think police should carry a type of malpractice insurance. Insurance agents, doctors and other professionals have such insurance, along with Continuing Education requirements.
I also think police unions need to go. Police unions protect all officers, good and bad. I am generally a pro - union person but police unions are not helping the situation.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:51 PM on November 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


I am not in favor of abolishing the police. When I worked in liquor and convenience stores at night I was very glad the police are a thing.

The question of how to reform them though is one of those things where it feels the answers are simple but as a practical matter it's really hard. Even if we come up with a workable comprehensive reform plan, we don't just need to pass it into law once. It needs to be passed all over the country at the state and local level, with many areas where people simply don't see any problem with police because they aren't the people targeted by them. Look at the body cam laws, I don't think anyone with an ounce of common sense could oppose them. Even if you are super biased in favor of police when they are accused of wrongdoing...that just means the camera will exonerate them! But progress with getting cameras on police across the country isn't moving nearly as fast as we need it to.

We also need to reform some of our laws as much as we need to reform policing methods. Things like the drug war are toxic for police/community relationships. It makes them enemies. The laws can never truly be effectively enforced without far too much privacy violation and too much draconian punishment. We are wasting our time trying unless we want to start being one of those countries that executes people for drug dealing and as much as some people in this country hate pot I don't think they hate it that much.

Free up the police to work on crimes with victims and the community will start to see that police can do some good, and then maybe the police and citizens won't see each other as enemies as much anymore.

The biggest problem though is the blue wall of silence. It's so ingrained in the culture I don't think it's going away. It's a sign of a deeply sick culture if the members of that culture are willing to look the other way on things like rape. I don't know how you stop it with anything other than outside groups calling attention to it and demanding prosecution. The police will not solve this problem on their own, and they are always going to be hated unless they start to have more loyalty to the people than to their coworkers.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:24 AM on November 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


We could largely disentangle violence from most social services that currently use police, like crime scene investigation, road safety, domestic violence prevention, etc., without actually ending the state, Aya Hirano. Yes, we could then pursue such reforms further to possibly reach a situation many here would consider state-less, but that's another discussion.

It's only social inequality and cash that makes liqueur stores dangerous, Drinky Die. And it's liqueur consumers need for anonymity that drives the liqueur store's need for cash processing. We could provide liqueur consumers with their anonymity without carrying a bunch of cash at the liqueur store using RSA blind signing based transaction systems, like GNU Taler.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:02 AM on November 2, 2015


And it's liqueur consumers need for anonymity that drives the liqueur store's need for cash processing.

I would say it's more the fact that people with low incomes don't easily have access to bank accounts.
posted by mayonnaises at 7:34 AM on November 2, 2015


jeffburdges: I don't think people buy liqueur with cash for anonymity reasons... GNU Taler seems a bit of a derail. That being said, I'd eagerly read a flushed-out post about GNU Taler; I hadn't heard of it before now (and feel as if I should have).
posted by el io at 12:35 PM on November 2, 2015


If you prefer, "hierarchical power" instead of "state". I don't think it's helpful to confuse chaos with non-hierarchy.

What might be helpful is to give examples of cases where dissolution of 'hierarchical power' over a space of less than a generation did not result in chaos.

I'm fairly certain you can find some. Once you do, there wil be something to discuss. Until then, you appear to be dealing in counterfactuals.
posted by lodurr at 5:15 PM on November 2, 2015




It's really a mystery why women are reluctant to report rape, isn't it?
posted by phearlez at 9:45 AM on November 4, 2015 [3 favorites]




We also got the offensive Mullinex decision today, which Slate summarizes very well here though they almost go too easy.

This wasn't a guilt or innocence thing; this was saying that withholding qualified immunity and allowing this cop's actions to be judged by a jury was going too far. You don't even get to decide whether his actions were too far, he just gets a straight-up pass. If this didn't meet the standard of "obviously unnecessary" then I'm not sure what ever will. Next up, cops shooting citizens with drones, I guess.
posted by phearlez at 1:46 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]




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